The Ecuadorian embassy in London, the current residence of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Photo: Getty Images
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Wikileaks wades into #GamerGate, says Nato as corrupt as video games journalism

Just when it seemed the worst "scandal" in media couldn't get any more conspiracy theoryish, Julian Assange appears.

The world of video games is being rocked right now by #GamerGate, which is either a rolling scandal of epic proportions concerning corruption and nepotism in games journalism and development, or a misogynist hate campaign orchestrated by a bunch of men who hate the idea of women having opinions about their hobby.

It turns out Julian Assange has been watching the whole thing unfold from his room in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and he's picked a side. You'll never guess which one:

Assange has also been taking part in an AMA session on reddit today, kicking off some further #GamerGate drama in the process - he replied to a question about it from a user who others noticed had been "shadow banned". In the context of reddit, a shadow ban means a user can use reddit and post comments like anyone else, but nobody else will see what they post unless a mod or admin approves it. Since #GamerGate is essentially predicated on the private lives of several women within the gaming scene, a lot of people have been getting shadow banned recently.

Is it a conspiracy? Is it censorship against those who seek the truth, as many have alleged? If it is, it's incredibly ironic to shadow ban someone for posting about reddit censorship in a thread about The Anti-Secrecy Campaigner himself, as many posters pointed out.

Except, turns out the guy was banned several days ago, and that specific question was the only one let through by the (supposedly censorious) admins. Woops.

I'm a mole, innit.

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Beware of tea: the cuppa has started wars and ruined lives

. . . and it once led F Scott Fitzgerald to humiliate himself.

A drink sustains me – one that steams companionably as I write. It is hot, amber and fragranced differently from any wine; nor does it have wine’s capacity to soften and blur. I’ve never understood how the great drunks of literature, Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald and their like, ever put anything on the page more worthwhile than a self-involved howl, though even Hemingway apparently finished the day’s writing before beginning the day’s drinking.

Tea is more kindly, or so I’d always thought. Those aromatic leaves, black or green, rolled and dried and oxidised, have some of wine’s artistry but none of its danger. Even their exoticism has waned, from a Chinese rarity (“froth of the liquid jade”), for which 17th-century English traders were made to pay in solid silver, to a product that can be found dirt cheap on supermarket shelves.

There are even home-grown teas now. The Tregothnan estate in Cornwall has supplemented its ornamental rhododendrons and camellias with their relative camellia sinensis, the tea plant, while Dalreoch in the Scottish Highlands grows a white (that is, lightly oxidised) tea, which is smoked using wood from the surrounding birch plantations. Tellingly, this local version is priced as steeply as the imported rarity once was.

I enjoy a simple, solitary mug, but I also appreciate communal tea-drinking – the delicate tea warmed with water at 85°C (a little higher for sturdier black blends), the teapot and china, the pourer volunteering to be “mother”, as if this were a liquid that could nurture. But in reality, tea is not so gentle.

Those long-ago English traders disliked haemorrhaging silver, so they started exporting opium to China from India and paying with that. This was a fabulous success, unless you happened to be Chinese. In 1839, a commissioner attempted to clamp down on the illegal and harmful trade, and the result was the Opium Wars, which the Chinese lost. “Gunboat diplomacy” – a phrase that surely constitutes froth of a different kind – won England a great deal of silver, a 150-year lease on Hong Kong and an open tea market. China received a potful of humiliation that may eventually have helped spark the Communist Revolution. As many of us have recently realised, there is nothing like economic mortification to galvanise a nation to kick its leaders.

Later, the tea bush was planted in India, Ceylon and elsewhere, and the fragrant but bitter brew for the upper classes became a ubiquitous fuel. But not an entirely sweet one: just as the opium trade ensured our tea’s arrival in the pot, the slave trade sweetened it in the cup. Even today, conditions for tea workers in places such as Assam in north-east India are often appalling.

Scott Fitzgerald also had tea trouble. When invited round by Edith Wharton, he frothed the liquid jade so assiduously with booze beforehand and risqué conversation during (a story about an American tourist couple staying unawares in a Paris bordello) that he was nearly as badly humiliated as those 19th-century Chinese. Wharton, unshocked, merely wondered aloud what the couple had done in the bordello and afterwards pronounced the entire occasion “awful”.

Some would blame his alcoholic preliminaries, but I’m not so sure. Tea has started wars and ruined lives; we should be wary of its consolations. On that sober note, I reach for the corkscrew and allow the subject to drive me softly, beguilingly, to drink.

Nina Caplan is the 2014 Fortnum & Mason Drink Writer of the Year and 2014 Louis Roederer International Wine Columnist of the Year for her columns on drink in the New Statesman. She tweets as @NinaCaplan.

This article first appeared in the 27 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Cool Britannia 20 Years On

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